Something’s brewing, says Nepal’s Kathmandu post
This is an editorial from the Kathmandu post. Great that they spotted the potential for Nepali coffee on the world scene.
The world has a bad coffee addiction. And it might be about to experience withdrawal. Food prices have been swiftly rising over the past few years and coffee prices are joining them. Coffee yields have decreased over the past few years in many of the Central and South American countries where most specialty coffee is grown. A New York Times article on Wednesday reported that Colombian coffee crops have been especially hard hit and climate change could be to blame. After Brazil, Colombia is the second largest producer of Arabica beans—more popular and expensive than Robusta, the other variety of commonly consumed coffee. As its name suggests, Robusta is a strong variety and better able to withstand changes in climate than the delicate Arabica. As temperatures increase in coffee growing regions throughout the world, coffee plants do not ripen at the right time and are more susceptible to pests like coffee rust and the coffee berry borer beetle. The resultant decreasing yields and the fact that demand is increasing with increasing consumption in emerging economies has led coffee experts to predict coffee could reach a premium like oil unless production is expanded globally.
So what does this mean for Nepal? Nepal’s coffee growing potential has been receiving more and more attention lately. The mountainous and temperate climate of the mid-hills is perfect for coffee cultivation—Arabica in particular. And the beetle that has been devastating coffee crops has been seen in all coffee growing regions (over 70 countries) except Nepal and Papua New Guinea. Coffee production has been increasing in Nepal and just last week the National Tea and Coffee Development Board (NTCDB) distributed an official trademark logo to three coffee industries. But production is nowhere near demand. While the 120,000 kg exported last fiscal year was a big jump from the 24,000 kg exported five years back, it’s not enough to make Nepali coffee a serious fixture in the international market. Compared to the 540 million kg produced by Colombia last year (a particularly bad year), it’s barely a drop in the bucket.
Nepal has an opportunity to enter the international coffee market with force. Vietnam can serve as an inspiration. Non-existent in the coffee market after the destruction of the Vietnam War, since the 1990s Vietnam has grabbed the number two spot for overall coffee production (number one for Robusta production). Vietnam’s incredible rise is due to economic reform and a serious governmental push towards production—a model Nepal would be wise to follow. Vietnam’s production drive has been so aggressive there are concerns it has driven coffee prices down. But it indicates that the market is open and may be opening even more if the trend of poor yields in countries like Colombia continues. There’s no reason Nepal can’t nose its way in. Still Nepal is no stranger to climate change and it is possible coffee crops here will also be affected by warming temperatures. A serious investment in coffee could be a gamble, but if the day comes when customers at Starbucks order a Grande cup of Himalayan, it could seriously pay-off.